As reported by NPR, for the first time in almost six centuries, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church will resign his post. Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will step down at the end of February, saying that, “after repeatedly examining his conscience before God,” his “strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
In his statement, the pope, who has held his post since 2005, admitted that in order to complete his duties, “both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
He ended his statement thanking his “brothers” for their support, asking for “pardon for all his defects.”
Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, received his ordination in 1951 after studying philosophy and theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich. He was elected pontiff following the death of Pope John Paul II.
The National Catholic Reporter wrote that the total number of popes that have resigned is probably less than 10. Gregory XII resigned to end the Great Western Schism in 1415, and “Pope Celestine V’s resignation in 1294 is the most famous because Dante placed him in hell for it. Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable. As Paul VI said, paternity cannot be resigned.”